The truth is out there: 03/04/2010

A weekly look at the world

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*The Marginal Revolution blog has tirelessly followed the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.

This week it highlighted the length of the road to recovery, noting that nearly 17 per cent of Haiti's civil servants died in the disaster, including many senior managers. It attributes the startling statistic to the concentration of Haitian government in Port-au-Prince and the size of government buildings. The high level of centralisation is in part a symptom of US colonialism as it made the country easier to rule.

*Teenage readers of the journal Nature Neuroscience were in for a treat this week as a new study revealed the brain region that is responsible for resisting temptation is one of the last parts to mature. Lead researcher Bern Figner told Discovery Online it could explain why adolescents often have a hard time delaying gratification. The research is still at an early stage, so blaming misdeeds on an undeveloped lateral prefrontal cortex might be premature.

*Watching sports can be a risky business, as the mother of an American baseball star discovered this week. Wanda Wilson, mother of Minnesota Twins player Denard Span, was just settling into her seat in the 41,000-seat Tampa stadium, when a foul ball flew off her son's bat and struck her in the chest. Reports on AP said Wilson was fine but the incident led Span to call for more netting to protect the fans.

*Poop-a-scoopers are everywhere across America's north-west as snow melt has revealed three months of uncleared dog faeces in gardens. Pet Yard Pick-Up owner and pet waste pioneer Gail Behrens-McArdle told twincities.com that it was a bumper year as heavy snows and rapid melt had left people overwhelmed by "hundreds of pounds of dog poop".

*A Washington Times investigation has revealed that more than a dozen Securities and Exchange employees and contractors have tried to view pornography on US government computers. As many as 16 subsequent investigations have revealed 8,273 incidents of employees watching porn while the financial system crashed around them.

*Beijing's booming population could cause a cemetery shortage if urgent action is not taken, according to the Chinese ministry of civil affairs. In a report released this week, the government said the city needed at least 50 new cemeteries in the next decade to meet demand. China Daily said the shortage was forcing up funeral costs beyond the means of low-income residents, and the government was now in favour of cemetery recycling and sea burials.

*Chinese scientists have created the world's first genetically modified cow that can give milk rich in omega-3 fatty acid, Xinhua reported this week. "Two embryo-cloned and genetically modified dairy cows were born June 23 last year," explained Li Guangpeng, head of the Biological Technology Laboratory at Inner Mongolia University. "One of the cows has been found to have omega-3 fatty acid level 10 times higher than a normal cow."

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